Lynne tried to forget the phone call from Harold, but the “he needs to talk to you badly,” part weighed on her, almost as much as the idea of camping in the jungle did. Maybe she had made a mistake, she thought, coming here to this hot and steamy place to find a new life. But what was waiting for her at home? An alcoholic boyfriend, an adult daughter who hated her, and no long-term way to pay her bills now that she had quit her job. Here, at least, she could forget all that for a few pre-paid weeks, and who knows what might turn up after that?
She rehearsed a conversation with Harold, using jungle camping as a reason he should not call her again.
“I won’t be reachable,” she would say. “I’ll be amongst the un-contacted tribes.” She knew that was a lie, that any un-contacted tribes were far from where she was, but it felt good just to say that.
Or perhaps she would use the Panama hat guy as a ruse. “We’ll be deep in the jungle doing research on medicinal plants,” she would say. That part was partly true. The plan was, she had found out from the Danish Rastafarians who seemed to be in the know about everything, as if they had some special channel into the silent Shaman’s mind, that they would camp on a platform in the tree canopy, and take the drug up there.
“It’ll blow your mind,” the shorter one said. His pale blue eyes looked out of place in this hot clime, like ice in a cup of cocoa.
“How do you know?” she had asked, but received only a smirk in reply.
* * *
The phone line crackled, then went silent. Lynne sighed, pleased at the thought that she might not be able to get through after all. But just as she was about to hang up, a male voice broke the hush on the other end. It sounded like it was speaking from the moon.
“Hello. Hello. Who is this?”
Lynne held the phone close to her mouth, still undecided about what she would say. “Harold? Is that you?” she finally muttered. Thunder cracked overhead as the gathering afternoon storm rolled across the forest. Lynne shuddered, then looked up at the clerk who grinned blankly back, the sparkle of her front teeth almost too much to bear in the dim light.
“Hello…ah, Harold Bullock speaking.”
“Harold. It’s Lynne.”
“Lynne. I’m calling you back,” she said matter of factly, adding “from the Amazon,” as if that would make it clear how futile it was for him to try to get her.
“Lynne! Yes, yes, I called you. Melanie gave me the name of the lodge, and I tracked down the number.” A bitter taste rose in her mouth, like sour apples.
“What did you want, Harold?”
“Want? Nothing. Just to tell you how much we love you. Beth and me. We miss you terribly.”
Lynne remembered the look on their faces at the airport, Beth’s like the whole scene was the most disgusting the world had ever seen, Harold, his eyes like half-moons, hung-over and smelling of cheap whiskey.
Silence. Then finally, “Harold. I have to tell you. I’m going into the jungle and will not be able to talk to you again. Do you hear me? I’ll be in the jungle. We’re doing research on endangered plants, the kinds used for medicine.”
“Danger? What danger. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine Harold. I’ve got to go though. This is costing me an arm and leg.”
“You hurt your leg?”
“No, Harold. My leg is fine. Goodbye.”